New trends, like virtual game nights and baking your own bread have become very popular during the pandemic. The latest one, however, could be a much-needed boost for area ranchers.
Meat processing plants across the country have reduced production or shut down entirely because of the coronavirus, making it difficult for ranchers to sell their cattle.
“Some of the buyers, they don’t even call you back. So it’s still bottlenecked at the major packers as far as getting cattle sold,” said rancher Corey Hart.
And with the lack of meat in stores, a lot of people have now turned to ranchers like Hart to buy their beef. While buying a half beef at around $1,000 or even a quarter at $500 is cheaper in the long run than buying packs of ground beef at the store, it does come with its own challenges for the buyer.
“Three-fourths of our sales are coming from urban families that have never bought privately before and the biggest issue there is that much beef, whether they need a freezer. We sell a lot of quarters to smaller families that are on pretty tight budgets. But even at that its, it’s a lot to take out of a monthly budget,” said Hart.
While a lot of ranchers are glad to get the cattle off their hands, they still have to be processed somewhere. Scherr’s Meats in Linton has enough local cattle coming in to be butchered that they’ll be busy until February.
“Right now you know we can’t get nothing in and all our local spots are getting filled so it’s getting to be tough. And we’re running nonstop, but like I said we can’t keep up either,” said Scherr’s owner Jeremy Kuntz.
Scherr’s is currently chopping up 15 cattle a week, as well as some pigs, which isn’t a normal product for them. When major processing plants begin to reopen, a lot of these orders could be canceled with products back on store shelves. And that may not be a bad thing.
“For my sake I kind of hope it does. What it is is you know we need meat on the shelves and like I said it’ll help us out a lot too because we’re doing too much the way it is and this way half of the people that booked with us you know they will probably start going you know going back to the stores again. Because it’s a lot of money, let’s say you buy half of a beef, it’s a lot of money,” said Kuntz.
Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring has made funds available to processing plants in North Dakota to be able to increase the number of cattle they take in to help ranchers sell their stock.